New data released has highlighted that more than a third of employees (35%) have continued to work while feeling unwell during the past 18 months. The research was conducted by Opinium on behalf of Canada Life and reveals many elements affecting presenteeism today. The figure is actually much higher among 18 to 34-year-olds, of which 46% said they have continued to work whilst being ill.
However, 21% of those who said they had continued working while being unwell, admitted that they would have taken the time off if there were no lockdown restrictions.
Why is presenteeism prevailing?
Reasons for not taking time off while sick include half of respondents saying they felt the illness was not serious enough to warrant time off, up from 40% last year; over a quarter (27%) said their workload was too high; and 24% stated that they were worried about the financial implications of taking sick leave.
Outside of the data, other reasons that staff may be contributing to presenteeism could be down to understaffing, job insecurity and discrimination for taking time off.
Young workers most affected
Presenteeism is the act of continuing to go to work despite illness having a negative effect on productivity. Working from home has impacted presenteeism, as almost one third of those surveyed felt more pressure to continue to work despite being ill. This figure rises to 37% when looking at 18-34-year-old participants, and decreases to only 27% for those aged 55 and over.
When it comes to presenteeism between genders, it was found that 37% of women felt the need to be more present at work compared to 28% of men.
Encourage wellbeing at work
Employers have a part to play in showing their staff that they take their wellness seriously. As well as providing benefits such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), which may provide access for staff to specialist services such as nutritionists or mental health experts, managers need to lead by example.
They could demonstrate the importance of taking the necessary time off to recuperate by practicing this themselves. Avoiding the creation of a toxic work culture is, whereby employees feel they may be discriminated against for taking sick days, is hugely important. Ensuring that managers are taking time off when needed and encouraging staff to do the same will help to promote the feeling that staff’s health and wellbeing are key.
While investing in your team’s health with tangible offerings, such as weekly yoga or mindfulness classes as an example, actions that will have the most impact will be those that create a positive work environment that allows staff the time and space to recover from illness if and when necessary.
As well as healthier and happier employees, there is a financial gain to be had as presenteeism is a cost to UK businesses. A report from Deloitte last year started that the cost of mental health presenteeism to UK businesses stands at between £26-29bn. That’s around four times the amount of mental health absence.